From Our Blog: Kids' Grocery List - How to Buy Healthy Food for Children

|A Happy and Healthy Child|Healthy food|Children at the breakfast table

With older children, I’m finding it increasingly more important to stock our fridge and cupboards with healthy food options. When the kids were babies and toddlers my husband and I made many, if not all, of the food choices for them. Back then, it was much easier to offer a banana when begging for a cookie wasn’t even a skill they knew yet.

Now that they're getting older, Owen and Olivia have more say in their meal and snack choices. Coupled with the fact that our family is exponentially busier with activities – school, work, dance, gymnastics, STEM fairs, our dog, and on and on – and we find ourselves on many occasions spiraling into making rash and unhealthy food decisions.

When you’re running out the door to get to work, it’s sometimes (ahem, most times) easier to give in to the whining for a sugary breakfast item than to convince the preschooler to wait and eat a yogurt after preschool drop-off.

So, I’ve been rethinking my approach to grocery shopping — how to steer clear of the junk and buy healthy food for my children and family. In general, I like to take a balanced approach. There’s definitely going to still be ice cream on my list unless you want to see a tired working mom (and dad!) curl up and cry. But I think this approach may be just what I need.  

Healthy Grocery List for Kids and Busy Families

I wish I could say I was the type of person to make a grocery list and stick to it. That approach doesn’t typically work for me. When I was leading picky eater workshops many “pre-children” years ago, I often suggested to parents to shop the perimeter of the grocery stores – where all the healthier food options live. I never incorporated this advice into my own shopping habits but I think it has merit, especially when kids tag along. If I can fill my cart with the good stuff first, then there is less space, and budget, for the junk.

Your grocery list for kids should include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Meats
  • Refrigerated items
  • Whole grains
  • Frozen foods
  • Healthy snacks
Enter the grocery store and head straight for the produce!


  • Apples: great for snacks, in salads, as a side with dinner, and so much more
  • Bananas: adds nutrition to cereal, smoothies, pancakes or just as is
  • Grapes: great for grab-n-go, hiking, and picnics
  • Berries: pairs well with yogurt or homemade whipped cream as a healthier dessert
  • Melon: buy pre-cut fresh melons for easy lunch or snack option
  • Clementines: a perfect snack and easy to peel for young kids


  • Carrots: great as a snack with hummus or roasted with maple syrup for dinner
  • Red pepper: this is a dinner staple - both kids eat it raw
  • Broccoli: can be used in stir-fry's, in mac-in-cheese, or dipped in dressing for a snack
  • Cauliflower
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Avocados: Taco Tuesday - enough said
  • Winter squash: roasted or mashed with maple syrup
  • Sweet potatoes: mashed or baked into fries
  • Fresh greens:
    • Spinach
    • Kale
    • Arugula
    • Lettuces
After the produce, head straight for the...

Meat Section

  • Chicken: for tenders for DIY breaded chicken or breasts for grilling Ground turkey: good for meatballs, tacos, or in chili/soup
  • Chicken sausages: on salads or as the main protein at dinner
  • Fresh fish
Then, make your way to...

Refrigerated Items

  • Eggs: hard-boiled for salads, in freezable breakfast sandwiches, scrambled for "breakfast for dinner" nights
  • Cheese: cheese sticks for snacks; sliced cheese to go with crackers and salami for lunchbox; fresh mozzarella balls for dinner, cheddar cheese for everything
  • Yogurt: Greek varieties including squeeze yogurt or single-serving vanilla, which pairs well with granola
  • Hummus
  • Orange juice
  • Milk
Then grab some...

Whole Grains

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole wheat tortillas: good for wraps, quesadillas, burritos, rolled up with peanut butter and banana, etc.
  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Whole grain rice
Next, make your way to...

Frozen Foods

  • Frozen fruits: for smoothies
  • Whole wheat waffles or pancakes: for easy breakfast or lunch
  • Sweet potato fries: sometimes it's easier just to buy the frozen ones
  • Veggie burgers
  • Ice cream! For when the kids are extra well behaved treat them—and yourself—with some ice cream!
Now your cart should be good and filled so it's time to go to...

Healthy Snacks

  • Peanut butter & jelly
  • Cereal: limit added sugar intake by avoiding anything that looks like a rainbow of colors
  • Granola: Loose Granola and/or Granola Bars
  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn
  • Wheat crackers
  • Tortilla chips
  • Salsa
  • Nuts
  • Raisins

Are Your Children Picky Eaters?

Do you have a picky eater? Are you looking for ways to encourage your kids to try new foods? Read our post courtesy of Aviva Goldfarb of The Six O’Clock Scramble to learn strategies to deal with picky eaters.

Resources Related to Kids Grocery List

  • E-family news: Tips & Advice for Grocery Shopping with Children
  • E-family news: Talking to Children about Healthy Eating Habits and Positive Body Image
  • Read more posts about family health from the Family Room bloggers.
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Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
|A Happy and Healthy Child|Healthy food|Children at the breakfast table